The old saying “history repeats itself” is true in many ways. In an effort to avoid falling victim to the same issues of previous generations, we attempt to learn from their mistakes.
Mistakes can range from acts of war to attempts at maintaining peace to everything in between. The “in between” has often included teaching society about the crimes of others in an attempt to deter future offenses. One individual that has provided many such learning opportunities was the notorious Al Capone.
Capone was known for a range of criminal activity, but the more violent acts are not what led to his demise. Instead, he was caught for an area of law that is generally known for its non-violent nature: a white collar crime.
What are white collar crimes?
White collar crime is a term used to describe a number of illegal activities, including mail fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.
Tax evasion was the charge used to pin down Capone. The New York Daily News recently re-ran a piece from the 1930s discussing how the government used tax evasion charges to catch this chief “public enemy”.
Why was he a chief public enemy? Why did the government want to put him behind bars?
A brief history lesson: at the time, prohibition was in full force. Alcohol was illegal, but the demand remained. As a result, selling and distributing alcohol was big business. Capone was accused of manufacturing and transporting beer – with a reputation for a violent rise to power.
Part of this violence spilled over to the streets of Chicago, leading to the massacre of a number of men in broad daylight. This led to questions of safety, which led to a call for Capone’s arrest.
Capone’s enterprise resulted in a massive business – a massive, illegal business. This business is what officials were able to use to bring Capone down. The concept of using a white collar crime in this manner was a novel idea at the time.
How does this case resonate today?
Tax evasion is not such a novel charge anymore. Tax evasion charges have brought down massive enterprises and can do immeasurable harm to individuals. Those who face these allegations can take note of the impact such charges have had in the past. Take the charges seriously.